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When will Australia produce its own food again?


old man emu
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I'm beginning to feel like a worn-out whore. I reckon I'm being screwed by everybody when I go to the supermarket. Here's today's example.

 

The missus wanted to try Old El Paso Tortilla Pockets

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This week they are priced at $7.50 at Coles, but are on Special at Woolies for $3.75. So I bought a box from Woolies.

 

I don't have any complaint about the products itself, although we haven't obviously used them yet, but what got on my goat was how much I was being screwed by pricing and production. I've developed the habit of looking at processed foods to see where they were made. Can you guess where these are made? Given current practice, you probably thought, "China" or maybe some other Asian country. Guess again. You could think Mexico because tortillas are part of Mexican cuisine. Sorry, no cigar. They were made in Spain.

 

Here's why I reckon I've been screwed. These tortillas are not made using any cornmeal. They are a wheat flour product. We grow lots of corn and wheat in Australia and we mill it into flour or cornmeal. We also have industrial bakeries that could make these tortillas. But they are made in Spain. The Old El Paso name is owned by the American General Mills of Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.

 

So how can Woolies make a profit at $3.75 for a product that was made using non-Australian grain*. That was transported halfway around the world. Then distributed from dock to store. Why is our food processing industry so limited that products like these have to be brought in from overseas. Why are Australians having to struggle to find work when thousands in other countries pick up a pay packet every week? And why do I have to pay $7.50 for eight large ice cream cones and a small bag of spices?

 

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I doubt we'll ever have a big food processing industry. It might be all economy of scale these days. Take the tortillas for example. We have a 25 million population and only a percentage of them buy tortillas, so it's a very small market for a domestic manufacturer to cater to. Much cheaper for a big overseas manufacturer to ship container loads on a rusty Liberian registered freighter with an underpaid Filipino crew.

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I see no reason to buy any food manufactured in an overseas country when we are the food bowl of the Southern Hemisphere - and the quality of our food is generally second to none.

Another factor I like with Australian food is the level of regulation we have as to what can be put into the food - and the ingredients listing requirements and the ingredients origin requirements.

All these regulations have been brought in, because of Australian consumer demand. Buyers want to know what's in their food, and where the ingredients come from.

 

I reckon a large percentage of overseas-manufactured food has dodgy ingredients and even more dodgy food manufacturing controls.

The Italian tomato industry is 100% controlled by the Mafia, and I often crack a joke with SWMBO - when we find Italian canned tomatoes - about them being grown on the finest Italian illegal nuclear waste dump, owned by the Mafia. Probably a lot closer to the truth, than a joke. Naples has a higher level of cancers than any other place in Europe.

 

https://qz.com/585890/more-and-more-people-are-dying-of-cancer-in-naples-and-its-the-mobs-fault/

 

Another feature I find with imported food is the high level of preservatives. When you see processed food with an expiry date of 2 or 3 years, you just have to wonder what they've done to it, to make it last like that.

I, too cannot understand how Spanish tortillas can be made in Spain, transported here, and then sold at a low price. Maybe it's food dumping, because they can't sell the product in Europe.

 

It's also interesting that the tortillas are made from wheat flour, when they you might think they're traditionally made from corn meal.

The "flour" (wheat) tortilla actually originated in Mexico in the 16th century and flour tortillas are the most common style of tortilla in Mexico and the U.S. They utilise low-grade wheat types which are not suitable for bread-making.

 

As American wheat types are usually lower grade types, the American wheat producers have a ready market in tortillas.

Australia produces high grade hard wheat types, with high protein levels, and good dough-making properties, and these wheat types are highly sought after for pastas and breads all through Asia, the M.E. and even Europe.

A fairly high percentage of Italian pasta is made from Australian durum wheat. We don't produce much corn (or "maize"), as there's not the demand for it, and it requires rich loamy soil and plenty of water.

 

It's only the more Southern of the South American states (Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela) who still utilise a lot of corn meal in their diet - and they don't make traditional tortillas (as we know them) from their corn meal.

They make a smaller and thicker "tortilla" from their corn meal, and it is not used as a wrap as it's more like a damper.

 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/tortillas

 

Another factor in the use of wheat flour is that maize takes more processing to get useable flour for tortillas. Lime is used in the maize-treatment process to remove the seed-coats of the kernels, plus any impurities in the kernels.

 

http://www.fao.org/3/T0395E/T0395E05.htm#:~:text=Lime-cooking in rural areas&text=It involves the addition of,then allowed to stand overnight.  (long article here)

 

In my local (upmarket) IGA, they have installed a machine that makes tortillas on the spot. There's very few ingredients in their tortillas, only (local) wheat flour, water, salt, and a bit of oil, I seem to recall.

They knock out a big batch every day and bag them up, about a dozen to a plastic bag, and sell them for $4.50 a bag.

They're delicious, I like to just drop a couple in the frypan with a half-teaspoon of butter, and cook them for few minutes until they get a little crispy in places. Often, we will cook up some bacon and onion, and make a bacon and onion wrap.

 

https://www.google.com/maps/uv?pb=!1s0x2a32ba95087f47bd%3A0x95feb3ce08236318!3m1!7e115!4shttps%3A%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2Fp%2FAF1QipOzGU3Qq8BucRcTjwOx1G9GVer9IwTKznWnPnPw%3Dw240-h160-k-no!5s2nd Avenue IGA - Google Search!

 

Edited by onetrack
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I don't eat any of those factory produced foods, nor soft drinks. Most of what I eat is produced from ingredients bought locally or home grown. This leads to a problem if i go anywhere without home made lunch etc and have to buy something in the food stalls. Most of what is on offer doesn't appeal to me, so I prefer meat pie of fish and chips.

When i look at the labels on food and see all the unnecessary additives it puts me right off eating them.

At the moment I have a weeks supply of bread working away and it has 3 ingredients. Flour, salt and water, nothing else, not even yeast as sourdough is just flour and water. Look on a package of factory bread and it contains many more ingredients and some of them are possibly not good for you.

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1 hour ago, Yenn said:

I don't eat any of those factory produced foods, nor soft drinks. Most of what I eat is produced from ingredients bought locally or home grown.

I'm with you on that one Yenn. It's hard to completely rid the diet of chemical factory food, but for a couple of years I've followed a diet that is probably about 95% fresh and natural. I feel noticeably better for it. I like the peace of mind it gives to have some control over what chemicals I put inside me. And it's good to support local producers rather than the multinationals with that cr*p they try to feed us.

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Food in Australia is certainly more expensive than Europe and the US...  Some of it is down to econcomies of scale and high volume production/preservation techniques, and some is down to being able to import from cheaper countrues. For example, yesterday, I was buying packs fo 2 Romaine lettuce for 29p (say 60 cents Aussie), which were grown in Norfolk. You will get 500ml bottles of soft drink for £1.45 at convenience stores (say, $2.90), where they are $5 in Australia (at end of 2018).
 

An Aussie mate of mine knows someone who works for Hersheys, of which the quality and taste of their chocolate is not one that I gels with my tastes. My mate asked his mate why they sold in Aus to an already saturated and cut-throat market and the response was Australia is happy to pay a lot of money for their food, and that even if they made a small inroad to the market, it is very profitable.

 

Against that backdrop, although I am sure farmers on the whole do OK (yes, they go through tough times), they are not the ones creaming it.. the middle-men are. The wholesale markets in Geelong could apparently be a rought part of the world to be in. I remember when I last lived in Melboure, how hard it was to find locally grown citrus fruits - not only at the local supermarkets, but the greengrocers and the Prahran Market. They were all, at the time, imported from the USA while the citrus growers fruit in/around Mildura rotted on the trees - because they could save few bob... Of course, it wasn't year round, but it was the summer time. It was crazy - a bloke across the road from us had a lime tree (thr fruit of which he guarded with his life).. but I couldn't get an Aussie lime. I eventually did find a green grocer who supplied Aussie fruit... I wasn;t buying foregin sourced stuff...

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Food is still way too cheap in Australia. All my life, I have forced myself to eat more than I wanted to stay out of trouble with the cook.

If you read old books, like Dickens or the bible, you soon find that this is not the usual state of affairs for humans. Aborigines, for example, lived on the edge of starvation and learned not to waste calories by climbing hills etc.

One outcome of food being too cheap can be seen here and now on the farm. I would like to employ a part-time farmhand but the idea just doesn't make sense. It is better to produce less food than pay the award rate and take the risk that insurance might be held as void for some reason.

 

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A lot of verges and fruit crops are very labor-intensive and unlike Europe and the US, Australia hasn’t got a massive army of immigrants willing to work for a pittance in atrocious conditions. Since the Covid lockdowns have stopped backpackers and Pacific people, some crops have rotted for want of people for harvest- while thousands of Aussies sit around on the dole+extra.

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Exactly right old K.  While I would like to see those dole people be able to keep their dole and get extra from working, I'm not hopeful that this will happen. More likely, we will see increasing automation in the veggie business. Yep, fruit-picking robots.

I wonder what they will do, those people who worked in Australia to send money home.

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2 hours ago, Bruce Tuncks said:

...I wonder what they will do, those people who worked in Australia to send money home.

Much of the developing world depends on remittances sent by people who work far away in richer nations; without that income, people back home miss out on the little extras, like educating their kids.

The good news is that these communities are not as helpless as unemployed Australians have become; they can survive on traditional farming, fishing, etc. 

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Working on the farm for the dole is not going to happen. The farms are way away from the out of work population.

I have heard that the farmers were wanting workers, because Covid stopped backpackers coming in. I have also heard that they were not interested in Aussies who could supply their own accomodation. The rort was that labour hire companies provide workers for farmers, but the rip off the workers by providing third rate accomodation at high prices.

I have seen that accomodation a few years ago when i stayed at a caravan park near Stanthorpe. The backpackers were in humpies and old caravans, covered with tarps to keep out the rain, All messing together in a big camp kitchen and enjoying the life, but they would not want to live like that for very long. It was nearly as bad as i put up with in the peacetime British army in the fifties.

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The Sydney rail company, was making its workers,  catch a 4 AM train to The back of the stump. To do a days work,

WITHOUT TRAVLE ALLOWANCE, OR TIME SPENT IN GETTINT THERE ,. AND RETURN. ( about 8 hours traveling ).

It took a court case to get better conditions for them.

So how come Sydney siders Don,t want a farm job !. If thepet can,t get travle allowance.

They could mow ther neibours lawn $ 100 !.

spacesailor

 

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There's some crook jobs around. When I looked after my dad when he was sick, I qualified for seven hours respite per fortnight funded by the DVA. Our care provider was RSL Care and I opted to have the seven hours of a free carer in one period once a fortnight. This gave me a few hours off per fortnight to buy groceries etc. and have a short break. The lady carer who regularly came out was a wonderful carer, a 12 out of 10. Carers do a hard and often thankless job, and in her case, she was only on about $22 per hour. They provided their own car, but got a fairly good per klm. rate paid to compensate.

 

She showed up one day and told me it was her last visit as she'd quit her job. On one of her rostered days off, the woman in charge (Stalin's daughter I think it was) rang and asked her at short notice to come in and do a half hour caring job for someone. She was expected to get ready for work and drive miles out into the country for $11 on her day off. So she told the Commandant 'No thanks, can you find someone else to do it'. When she next arrived at work, she was told by the Commisar that if she wanted to keep her job, she had to undergo a re-education course to correct her attitude. Needless to say she told her boss to stick her job. All that for a miserable $22 per hour. I couldn't believe how badly paid and treated they were considering the type of job they do.

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Across this nation (and lots of others) aging women are the hidden casualties of our foreign wars. They spent their lives caring for an alcoholic, violent, mentally-maimed husband or father. When his torment finally ceased, they were left with plenty of health problems of their own, but also homeless, unemployed, without savings or work qualifications.

 

Meanwhile, obscenely well-paid lackeys of the weapons industry retire to their mansions and their expensive toys.

 

 

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Now it is not lackeys of the weapons industry, but CEOs and directors of just about any business. Most of them are paid 20 or more times what the person who does the work gets and never do any work at all.

The more work a person does, the less they get paid.

I am only glad that I did my working life before this happened, but now the money I managed to save is worth nothing. The percentage return on savings or even the return from top quality shares is miserable.

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YEN ,

l totally agree,

what,s got up my nose with CEO,S, is /was, the fact they can have a ROLLS ROYCE, as their ride !.

All payed for by under paying their Share members a reasonable return.

EVEN MORE is the CEO,S of charity organisation's, were only a Pittance goes to the needy !.

spacesailor

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I suppose charity organisations could include things like the Capricorn Helicopter used for rescue. For years the Old Station raised money for them from its air shows, but they have become a vast money gobbling empire. I don't know how much the CEO gets paid, but doubt that he earns it.

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On 29/01/2021 at 12:05 PM, old man emu said:

And why do I have to pay $7.50 for eight large ice cream cones and a small bag of spices?

 

You don't.  A handy bloke such as yourself should be able to figure out how to construct them yourself from Australian ingredients!

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1 hour ago, Marty_d said:

You don't.  A handy bloke such as yourself should be able to figure out how to construct them yourself from Australian ingredients!

I'll think about how to make them while I'm making some pizza dough for a homemade pizza tonight. Ground beef and onion topping with caramelised onion, capsicum and mushrooms.

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